If America had royalty, Brandywine Valley might be the place where you would find it.
Stretching between southeast Pennsylvania and northeast Delaware, the Brandywine Valley area is home to a number of amazing mansions and other vestiges of the American industrial elite. The du Pont family made its name as a gunpowder manufacturer in Greenville, Delaware, during the American Revolution, and remained in the Brandywine area as the company rose to become one of the most powerful corporations in the country.
Today the du Pont history and legacy can be found throughout the region. Groups can visit Hagley, the original Greenville gunpowder mill, for a look at the business that started it all for the du Ponts.
Across the border in Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens is perhaps the most magnificent
expression of the du Ponts’ prominence.
“Longwood Gardens is one of the top historical treasures in the area,” said Nina Kelly, director of marketing and communications for the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau, which represents the Pennsylvania side of Brandywine Valley. “It was started by Pierre du Pont. It was an arboretum that he saved 106 years ago from being cut down as a lumberyard.
“Throughout the years, they have stayed true to his vision and legacy of sustainability. There are acquisitions and plantings among all the trees, meadows, gardens and fountains. It’s beautiful land that has been preserved in formal and not-so-formal ways.”
Today, Longwood Gardens is perhaps the most impressive botanical garden in the country, comprising 1,077 acres of formal gardens, woodlands, meadows and stunning water features. The conservatory combines classical architecture with collections of some of the world’s most exotic warm-climate plants.
Last year, Longwood opened an expanded meadow garden. This summer, the organization will unveil “Nightscape,” a multimedia experience that will use the trees and flowers as a backdrop for immersive light and sound displays.
For another example of the du Pont legacy, Kelly also suggested that groups visit Winterthur, a French-style mansion in Wilmington, Delaware, that now houses one of the country’s premier collections of American furniture, textiles, pottery and china.
In addition to admiring these du Pont institutions, groups visiting Brandywine Valley will enjoy the history, art heritage and unique tour opportunities in towns such as West Chester and Kennett Square.
Brandywine River Museum
When a historic mill on the Brandywine River was slated to be converted into a tire factory, a member of the du Pont family stepped in and bought the property. In cooperation with the Brandywine Conservancy, the du Ponts recast the mill as the center of the Brandywine River Museum, an art museum that highlights some of the best American art from the area.
The museum is most known for its collection of paintings by Andrew Wyeth, the son of illustrator N.C. Wyeth and a friend of the du Pont family. The museum now has numerous works by both Wyeths, as well as other American regional painters.